Council Highlights – City Council meeting of October 29 and 30, 2008

Improving Toronto’s economic competitiveness
Council approved the creation of two new City corporations to strengthen Toronto’s position in the global marketplace and enhance its economic competitiveness. Build Toronto will use the available land owned by the City and its Agencies, Boards and Commissions to attract targeted industries, stimulate the creation of desirable employment and regenerate neighbourhoods. Invest Toronto will engage the private sector in marketing and promotion activities to increase business investment and create desirable jobs in Toronto. The new corporations will replace the Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO) and support the objectives of both the Blueprint for Fiscal Stability and Economic Prosperity (February 2008) and the Agenda for Prosperity (January 2008), which recommend that the City establish a new structure and strategy for maximizing the City’s real estate holdings and highlight the need for a focused approach to the City’s marketing efforts. 

Woodbine Live project
Council adopted a community improvement plan that will provide local employment opportunities as its latest step in support of the Woodbine Live project. The project will transform Woodbine Racetrack (in northwestern Toronto) into an attraction that will include a venue for live entertainment as well as a hotel and retail operations supplementing the horse racing operation. Later phases of the project include further mixed use development that may include office buildings and up to 2,500 units of residential housing. 

Local food in City childcare centres
Council approved a policy and implementation plan that will increase the amount of locally grown food used in childcare centres. The Local Food Procurement Policy will be phased in by the Children’s Services Division in 2009 in order to learn more about the practical implications of increasing the proportion of local food used in City food operations. That experience will help the City work out details for expanding the strategy into other operations in the future to further help reduce harmful truck gas emissions that are generated by importing food from outside Ontario.

City to increase its court capacity for 2009
Council authorized the leasing of an additional 17,000 square feet at 481 University Ave. for Court Services to build four new courtrooms for use in early 2009, addressing the problem of a backlog of court hearings and related loss of potential revenues from fines. The new courtrooms will allow an estimated 125,000 additional trials to be conducted annually for parking ticket disputes, minor traffic offences and other provincial offences charges. 

Labour disruptions to public transit
Council decided to communicate its support to the Province of Ontario for declaring the Toronto Transit Commission’s Wheel-Trans Service an essential service and for legislation mandating a minimum of 48 hours notice before any TTC strike can legally take place. Among other related steps taken by Council is a request for the TTC and its staff to negotiate a wider strike protocol that protects and delivers all Wheel-Trans Service in the event of a strike, job action or a lockout.

Green fleets
Council directed staff to review the City’s vehicle idling bylaw to eliminate any unnecessary exclusions that are currently offered for City and TTC vehicles. In addition, Council wants to consider the feasibility of installing a flashing light or buzzer in non-emergency City and TTC vehicles that will alert the driver when the vehicle is idling longer than it should. Those requests were made as Council endorsed Green Fleet plans for Toronto Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services, the Toronto Police Service and the TTC aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Cleaner parks on long weekends
In support of strengthening Toronto as a tourism destination, Council approved an operational change to adjust work schedules for Parks crews to provide litter pickup and garbage collection in downtown parks and other high-volume tourist parks during the five long weekends from May to October. The intention is to make sure the parks are clean and inviting. Until now, the parks clean-up service was provided the day after a holiday.